From the newest Class of 2022 in Ithaca to the new Cornell facilities in New York City, President Martha E. Pollack looked back at the progress made in the last academic year and highlighted her goals for the coming year in her annual address to Cornell’s faculty and staff Tuesday.
Cornell attracted 51,000 applicants for the Class of 2022, according to Pollack. The students that arrived just two months ago represent 47 states — with the exceptions of the Dakotas and Wyoming — and 43 countries. First generation students make up 14 percent of the new students and 27 percent of the class identifies as an underrepresented group, Pollack said.
Beyond the increasing and enduring attraction of distinguished students, Pollack identified promoting “educational verve” as an area requiring continued attention and advancement.
Pollack previously said in her 2017 inaugural address that “educational verve” is a “vitality that leads our students to a lifetime of discovery, a passion for ideas and a commitment to seeking truth.” This vitality, according to Pollack, is embodied by the Active Learning Initiative, which includes the innovative classroom technologies and flipped classroom structure. The latter emphasizes more on the “active learning” of students through discussions, group work and peer instruction instead of learning from the lectures alone.
“We’ve been studying the impact of these programs,” Pollack said. “We don’t just do them, we look to see whether they work, and the early evidence is that students enjoy the experience and, importantly, they also have better learning outcomes.”
The ALI, once just an initiative within the College of Arts and Sciences, will soon become a campus-wide classroom approach, thanks to financial support from Alex Hanson ’87 and Laura Hanson ’87.
The expansion of the project from college-focused to campus-wide represents Pollack’s third overarching priority: campus unity.
“We are one Cornell,” Pollack said. “Our small town and big city campuses have complementary strengths that we can leverage to create opportunities for Cornellians and to develop innovative approaches and innovative solutions to many of the world’s major problems.”
To achieve this interdepartmental and inter-campus integration, Pollack hopes to set up spaces for Ithaca’s ILR school in the Roosevelt Island-based Cornell Tech campus and a new Midtown space opening in January. Furthermore, the same Lexington Avenue space will also house research units related to Engaged Cornell and the College of Human Ecology.
Pollack recognized “colocation as a way of breaking down barriers among all parts of the University,” and said she plans to continue building a cohesive community across the Ithaca campus, Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell Tech. She also added that growing cohesion across New York state, however, requires a sense of unity in Ithaca first.
Pollack’s fourth and final priority called for continued commitment to civic responsibility.
Through a defense of knowledge and truth and the protection of freedom of speech, Pollack hopes to foster “a diverse, inclusive, egalitarian and just community,” according to her address statement.
This year’s inaugural freshman orientation intergroup dialogue project, aimed to help students better communicate across differences and represented one mode of renewed investment in social tolerance.
An online course that similarly “trains faculty to teach more effectively in multicultural classrooms and to address difficult topics in the classroom” will open the students’ community-building exercise to staff when it becomes available on Monday, Oct. 15.
Pollack ended her address with a question-and-answer period in which she repeated information on the University’s planned North Campus expansion and assured staff that the goal of increasing enrollment by 900 students over four years after the completion of the first set of buildings, would be met with proportional staff increases as well.
Before closing, Pollack restated her gratitude to her tireless community of workers, including maintenance personnel, academic advisors, financial analysts and staffing coordinators.
“The University could not run without all of you, so thank you so much,” said Pollack. “I say this all the time, but I mean it… I am sincerely grateful to each and every one of you.”